The Novel Incubator Turns 12!

From upper left: Tim Deer, Jessica Lewis, Mandy Smith, Michelle Hoover. From bottom left: Corinne Foster, Carla Levy, Michael Zahniser, Kimberly Smith Surette, Kathleen Flynn, Rob Medley, Charlotte Troyanowski

This November, ten aspiring novelists became Boston-based GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator Program’s 12th graduating class, joining over 100 other alumni—many of whom have already had their novels published. In fact, according to Incubator instructor, Michelle Hoover, the program boasts a publication rate of over 20%!

If you’re ready to get your novel out into the world, this year-long, in-person, MFA-level course could be just what you need.

We asked a few of this year’s grads to share one major takeaway from their experience in the Incubator. Here’s what they had to say:

“If you create robust characters with strong intentions and surround them with obstacles designed to thwart those intentions, your characters will pretty much write the book for you.” — Corinne Foster

Corinne’s novel, Voluntary Motherhood, makes motherhood out to be anything but an easy choice. Meet high-school sweethearts, Josie and Guthrie, whose new relationship is forged by an unexpected pregnancy. Eight years later, they are forced to revisit their choice to keep the pregnancy and get married when they are overworked, overwhelmed, and their relationship is splitting at the seams.

“My big takeaway from the Novel Incubator has to do with structure, specifically, with how to forge plot via character. Michelle’s paraphrase of Henry James—’Character determines incident, incident reveals character’—while seemingly obvious (of course that’s how plot should work!), pretty radically changed the way I think about structure. By giving me a more stringent set of criteria for my plot choices, it somehow opened me up to more, not fewer, plot ideas.’” — Mandy Smith

Mandy’s historical novel, Beulah, tells the story of a 19th century Massachusetts farmer, Cabe Belden, and his daughter, Ada, who both suffer a terrible loss. When she was six-years-old, Cabe leaves Ada alone to watch over her little sister, and the younger girl dies.

“I’d say one of my big takeaways from the Incubator was learning to do a better job of understanding my characters, and adapting those changes into my novel. My main characters changed a lot in that year.” —Rob Medley

Rob’s novel Apples and Trees is a story that isn’t as simple as the title implies. At the beginning, Kate’s son Emory has been convicted of a terrible crime: the murder of another young man and Emory’s decision to try to hide the body. Now it’s up to Kate to not only try to understand why Emory might have been pushed to such a desperate act, but what her own role in it could be.

The Novel Incubator is an in-person, competitive, affordable, 12-month course that meets weekly at GrubStreet’s beautiful Center for Creative Writing in Boston’s Seaport District. Over the course of a year, you’ll revise your full manuscript, study the novel form, and gain a thoughtful introduction to the publishing world.

Prominent local authors, editors and/or agents will visit class as guest speakers. At the end of the program, you’ll have a chance to meet with an agent and/or editor as part of the Manuscript Mart at the Muse and the Marketplace conference; this agent or editor will read an excerpt of your novel with an eye toward representation.

Applications for the 2024-2025 Novel Incubator are open now. The deadline to apply with your full manuscript draft is February 14, 2024. Fellowships are available.

Thinking of applying? Join an informal Q&A Open House session with Incubator alumni and instructor Michelle Hoover. The next Open House will be held via Zoom on December 12, 12 to 1pm ET. See you there!




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